King’s Cross 9 3/4

Am I still nostalgic about Harry Potter, even after all of this time?

….Always.

*Cough* Anyway, there’s a relatively new cafe in Seoul called King’s Cross 9 3/4, and I finally got the opportunity to check it out.

Long story short, I wasn’t disappointed.

First, there’s the nostalgia factor. The original music from the films is played over and over again in the main lobby. The menu’s not too fancy, but there IS one very recognizable cake being offered for sale. Finally, you can find at least one Harry Potter book on each floor, just waiting to be read, or at least used for a photo session.

Second, the whole building is chock-full of photo opportunities. Each floor has its own “theme,” one might say, and there’s a specified “photo corner” on the first level that has its own line. Although a bit crowded, the lobby area includes a wall of wand boxes, and piles of books resting on a bit of a staircase. Plus, there’s the iconic 9 3/4 wall just outside.

I was honestly too distracted by my surroundings to pay much attention to the quality of my coffee, but I remember enjoying it. Still, I’ll have at least one more opportunity to test that coffee: The Hog’s Head (located in the basement) hasn’t officially opened yet, and you KNOW I’ve gotta check that one out, as well!

Thanks for reading,

Emme

 

P.S. Here’s the address:

서울 마포구 양화로16길 24

And the name of the place in Hangul:

943킹스크로스

Fushimi Inari Shrine

The Fushimi Inari Shrine was the whole reason why I picked Kyoto as a vacation destination to begin with. This sounds basic, but I loved reading and watching Memoirs of a Geisha, so I was dying to see those orange gates.

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The main entrance

I went there early and still encountered quite a few people. Still, I managed to have my moment alone in the tunnel.

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Exhilarated by that tunnel, I decided to keep hiking up the mountain. I followed the gates — encountering so many smaller statues and shrines along the way — and eventually made it to a nice lookout point.

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The lookout point

If you go to Kyoto, don’t miss seeing this place. It’s worth it.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

Obliviate Cafe

I finally hit up Obliviate Cafe! I’d spent months repeatedly staring at it as I made my way up to Dujeong Station, but it took a bad day and a friend saying, “Let’s go there; you clearly need coffee,” to convince me to step inside.

Truthfully, I think I waited so long because I was a little intimidated by its sheer-white exterior. It’s just a sleek, minimalist-looking place.

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Also, I need to know where they purchased this dog statue…

Like I said, I was having a bad day, so I got a big coffee with copious amounts of chocolate in it. It was delicious.

If you find yourself anywhere in the vicinity of Dujeong Station and clearly need coffee, then this place is worth checking out.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

 

Things Seen in Kyoto

Thanks to a money issue, I ended up walking all over Kyoto instead of hitching a ride to places. The upside of that situation is that I saw a lot of things I might’ve missed if I had been on a bus most of the time.

Sometimes a picture is truly worth a thousand words, and I think that applies to this post. Here’s some things I saw as I was making my way around Kyoto:

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A water station at a shrine

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Gion at night

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The view from Shijo Bridge

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Nishiki Market

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Just a nice area near the Philosopher’s Path

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One of the many vending machines in Kyoto

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A nice path in central Kyoto

Looking back, I’d say that Kyoto has several places that are good for a stroll — even a long, LONG stroll. Overall, it’s a peaceful place.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

Iwatayama Monkey Park (嵐山モンキーパーク)

“Don’t stare at the monkeys in the eye.”

I kept that command in mind as I made my way up Mt. Arashiyama, following the trail as it weaved back and forth. I was early, so the only people I saw on my journey to Iwatayama Monkey Park were several members of a landscaping crew who would blow leaves off a section of the trail and then quickly take off on a four-wheeler to tackle another section. We exchanged smiles and the occasional hello, otherwise it was just me and the advice signs.

At the top, I found a pretty impressive view of Kyoto, a few friendly caretakers, and a TON of monkeys.

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There’s a room where you can feed the monkeys through the bars of a cage (the monkeys cling to the outside of it and reach in to take the food). However, I spent most of my time outside, either making my way up the short trail to hang out with the monkeys, or simply sitting on one of the benches near the viewpoint.

All in all, I spent about 90 minutes up there, and I would’ve stayed longer if the rain had held off for another hour. It was a peaceful morning spent in Kyoto.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

 

Bukhansan (북한산)

Prior to Bukhansan, I had never climbed a mountain, let alone gotten to the top of one. I’ve always liked hiking, but I’ve never been a serious hiker, you know?

That mindset changed when my friend, Annie, suggested that we climb Bukhansan on Hangul Day (a blissful day off from work). Everyone else ended up having the same idea, so the mountain was packed with people.

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A rare, RARE moment with no people around us..

It was a challenging hike. Near the top, the trail disappears entirely, and you have to start pulling yourself up the mountain via a series of cables. For us, that meant that we had to wait in line, too, because of all the people vying for a spot at the top. …Everyone took the time to encourage each other, at least!

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Me: “What is that man DOING.”

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We made it! (Annie left, I’m right)

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Sharing the space at the top…

After all was said and done, we had hiked up and down Bukhansan in about 7 hours. I may have spent the next several days hobbling everywhere (my poor legs), but the pain was well-worth it.

Now I can’t wait to climb another mountain.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

MARIS Coffee (마리스커피)

A friend recently took me to MARIS Coffee because it’s his favorite coffee shop here in Cheonan. Afterwards, I couldn’t thank him enough for letting me know that this place exists.

MARIS is a good mix of businesslike and cozy. It’s in a dark, minimalist, two-story building right by Cheonho Lake. The walls facing the lake are just rows upon rows of windows, letting in plenty of natural light. When the weather gets nicer again, I’m definitely gonna utilize the lake-facing deck space, as well.

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Cheonho Lake, with one of Cheonan’s universities in the background

Not to mention, the coffee and desserts are TASTY.

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My order was SO GOOD.

If you like coffee and find yourself in this area in the future, don’t skip this place.

Address:

충남 천안시 동남구 안서동 492-2번지

492-2 Sinan-dong, Dongnam-gu, Cheonan, Chungcheongnam-do

 

Thanks for reading,

Emme

 

Gakwonsa Temple (One Year Later)

One year later, I made it back to Gakwonsa temple. What a difference a single year makes!

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This is still my favorite building in the area

Some of my friends came with me this year. We discovered that the lake near the temple now has a walkway along it, and the water’s full of fish and turtles.

Additionally, the full-on construction work that was happening next to the main temple looks about finished. There wasn’t any screeching machinery or people yelling out instructions. And the main temple was open to everyone this time around. (Last year, they had closed it for some painting work.)

After leaving the main temple, I found the spot where I took that picture of the Buddha statue last year. The sky was overcast and one of my friends was there to pose for the size comparison. I couldn’t have been any happier.

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Really, I’m always happy at Gakwonsa. The views are always beautiful, no matter what the weather or season.

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Thanks for reading,

Emme

 

 

Arashiyama

Arashiyama was easily the highlight of my trip to Kyoto.

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I didn’t have the money for bus fare (long story), so I got up at 4 a.m. and walked three hours to get there before the crowds converged on it.
I was very tired by the time I arrived, but it was well worth the effort. Only three people (including me) were there.

With a fence on either side of the path, you can’t just wander off into the bamboo. That dampened my sense of adventure for a brief moment.

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However, staring at the bamboo and listening to the wind whispering all around me gave me a great sense of peace. I left feeling very relaxed and ready for the rest of my day.

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If I ever go back to Kyoto, it’ll be to see this place one more time.

Thanks for reading,

Emme

Seonimgyo Bridge

Seonimgyo Bridge is an arch bridge that crosses over the stream between the second and third tiers of Cheonjeyeon waterfall. There are seven nymphs carved on each side of it, referencing the Korean legend about seven nymphs that descended from heaven each night to bathe in the waterfall’s pond.

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The bridge is steep, not to mention a little unnerving, since the only thing separating you from a sheer drop is ONE. CHEST-HIGH. RAILING.

It connects Cheonjeyeon with the Jungmun Tourist Complex, although I didn’t stray too far into that area because I hadn’t gone to see the third waterfall yet. I did stop to appreciate the pagoda and the unexpected view of Cheonjeyeon Falls, though.

Thanks for reading,

Emme